Claire Malone Changes the World: In Conversation with Nadia L. King
I first met Nadia L. King a number of years ago, introduced by a mutual friend in a Leederville coffee shop. It was shortly after Nadia decided to face her fears by picking up a pen to write—and she hasn’t looked back!
Since then Nadia has published Jenna’s Truth (a story about cyberbullying for young adults) and, more recently—during the COVID-19 lockdown—she released Claire Malone Changes the World, a picture book designed to empower and inspire young children.
Her short stories have been published in Australia and internationally, and she was the winner of the 2019 Stuart Hadow Short Story Prize. Nadia believes passionately in the power of stories to make the world a better place, and I’m delighted to welcome her to Treefall Writing.
When did you discover that writing was something you loved doing?
I’ve always loved reading. Writing wasn’t something I could do but eventually I decided to face my fear and about five years ago I finally picked up a pen. I wondered how I’d gotten through so much of my life reading everything I could get my hands on without writing a word.
What keeps you writing?
Stubbornness keeps me writing—and the flashes of joy I experience when writing a story. If I didn’t truly enjoy writing, I would find something else to do with my time. Life is too short not to find joy in the every day.
Where do you write?
I write in snatches, anywhere and everywhere. I’m currently a full-time PhD student, so much of my writing is academic in nature. Fortunately, there is a creative component to my research and that’s what I tend to write in snatches. Creative writing comes more easily, so I squeeze it in between everyday life so I can concentrate on my academic work in long stretches. I don’t need great swathes of time to write creatively, and I fit it in while waiting for appointments or sitting in my car waiting for my kids.
How often do you write?
I probably write most days. I don’t have a set time or anything; I write when I need to. Sometimes I get up early to write in peace and quiet before my family wake up, but that’s hard to do in winter!
What do you do when you don’t feel like writing?
Fortunately, not feeling like writing isn’t something that happens to me very often. I usually struggle to squeeze writing in between everything else, which means when I have the time to write I am very excited to do so.
How has COVID-19 impacted your writing?
When we were all at home, it was difficult to be as productive as usual. Strangely enough, now that my kids are back at school and my hubby is back at work, I’m lonely at home without them, especially because uni is still operating very much on a remote basis and I don’t work from campus.
Claire Malone Changes the World
What was the motivation and/or inspiration behind writing Claire Malone Changes the World?
The inspiration came to me while on holiday in New Zealand. Whenever I visit New Zealand, stories seem to rush at me—I think it must be the influence of the landscape and the people, but New Zealand is like a second home. With Claire Malone Changes the World, I wanted to write a story to empower kids and show them the importance of lifting their voices. No matter how powerless we feel, we do have agency to make a difference in the world. We all do. It doesn’t matter how old or young we are—your voice really does matter.
How did you get connected with the illustrator, Alisa Knatko?
Ailsa is the illustrator of Claire Malone Changes the World and she’s based in Moscow, Russia. Since collaborating on the book, we’ve become personal friends. I think the usual process in creating picture books is for the publisher to source the illustrator who they think will best suit the story. This is how process unfolded with Claire Malone Changes the World.
What is the process of working with an illustrator on a book?
Generally authors of picture books make illustration notes with their manuscripts. I am conscious of not being too prescriptive and I enjoy seeing the illustrator’s take on the story. It’s quite wonderful to see your story visually come to life.
What has it been like to launch a book in the middle of a pandemic?
Like many creatives, I lost work during the pandemic. A lot of independent booksellers struggled to keep afloat during this time, which means that booksellers who I was expecting to stock Claire Malone Changes the World haven’t, and that’s left me with copies to sell.
What project are you working on next?
As I mentioned previously, I’m a full time PhD student, so my focus is and will be on that body of work for the next three years. But I’m very excited about the release of my second picture book, The Lost Smile, which explores themes of emotional intelligence and cultural diversity, and is due for release at the end of October by Dixie Books.
A Few of Your Favourite Things
Who inspires you?
Many people inspire me, but I draw a lot of inspiration from my writing buddies who support and encourage me on a daily basis. It’s wonderful to have a group of writer friends to share in each other’s writing journey.
Who has made a difference in your life?
Strange though this may sound, but a woman who died at Fremantle Prison gallows decades before I was born has had a powerful impact on my life. I became very curious about this woman’s life, so curious in fact that I went back to uni to undertake an Honours project, which looked in part at the reasons for this woman’s conviction, which in turn led me to embarking on a PhD.
If you could write a letter to your 12-year-old self, what would you say to her?
Twelve was a horrid time for me. We had recently arrived in Australia, my parents decided to divorce, and puberty showed up right at that time, too. It was one of those times when words are rather inadequate. I would make that girl a cup of tea, open a packet of chocolate biscuits and sit across the table from her. I would let her spill out all her worries and fears, and I would listen and not interrupt!
What’s your favourite book or story?
Like many avid readers, I enjoy so many books. If I had to choose one favourite author it would probably be Japanese author, Haruki Murakami—his writing is accessible but multi-layered and filled with truth. I also particularly enjoy the short stories of Shirley Jackson and Angela Carter, and the writings of Margaret Atwood and Neil Gaiman. Closer to home, I enjoy the works of Hannah Kent, Favel Parrett, Katherine Mansfield and Elizabeth Jolley. For children’s and young adult literature, I’m a great fan of Kate Di Camillo, A. S. King, A. J. Betts and Meg McKinlay. To be perfectly open, I’m a sucker for a good story. Don’t let me get bored, surprise me, and I’ll be your reader for life.
If you could wake up and choose one thing to do all day, what would that be?
I’m very blessed in that I am exactly where I want to be and there isn’t anything else I would rather be doing at this stage of my life than a PhD. I am also very aware of this position of privilege and I certainly don’t take it for granted.
What is one thing you’d love to do or achieve in the future?
I hope to continue to write short stories and stories across readers and genres, and to hopefully have my stories published.
Any final words, especially to young writers and other creatives?
My only words would be to remind people to read—reading can make you more empathetic, lengthen your lifespan (true fact), give you new and different experiences from a safe space, and the very act of reading can have therapeutic benefits. It is one of the best things you can do for your mind!